The boy was screaming again. His parents had insisted on a photograph of him on his own to commemorate young Adrien’s Bar Mitzvah. He was a man now in the eyes of his faith but being high on the autism spectrum meant that the fuss and the pomp and ceremony of the day had left him feeling over stimulated. The attack of sensations on his senses caused him to act out wildly.
Julianna Beltane, proud citizen of New York City and freelance photographer of three years was used to dealing with difficult clients. Most people she met were nervous in some way. They were nervous at having their picture taken, they were in the midst of an event they had been planning for the best part of the year or they were just anxious to be done with the photo. Julianna’s full cheeks and round face she got from her mother and the caring, almond eyes she got from her father were soothing. Most people responded warmly to her. She had a natural ability for drawing people from their nerves.
Adrien dropped into a chair. He gave a heavy sigh. The red tie with black leaf print had been pulled off. His crisp white shirt was torn open at the collar.
“Your mom would like to get a photo of you,” Julianna said softly as she took the chair beside him. “How are you feeling?”
Adrien didn’t answer. A frown tightened the skin between his thick, black eyebrows.
“You should enjoy your day. It only comes once,” Julianna added.
Adrien liked her. She had the scent of honey around her. Her pale skin was scattered with freckles, mostly concentrated across the bridge of her nose.
“What if we do it whist everyone else is busy?” Julianna suggested, knowing that the boy would feel better with the other’s being distracted.
The storm in Adrien’s face dissipated. He formed a smile but kept his gaze below Julianna’s eye line. She angled her camera. Click. Her instict told her that the unposed and spontaneous photographs would look much better than anything that could be staged. There would be some eye catching images for Mrs Adams of her son as he danced on the cusp of manhood.
The photographer was no stranger to Autism. Her younger brother was also afflicted. When he had a meltdown only his Jules could calm him.
Adrien settled into his party after that leaving Julianna to capture special moments. It was the reason she started her photography business. Cementing memories in an image to enjoy in future years was a special kind of magic.
“Thanks for your help,” Mrs Adams said to her at the end of the day.
Julianna didn’t doubt the appreciation of the mother. Mrs Adams had especially noticed Julianna’s patience in dealing with Adrien, even when the boy was determined to be difficult. However, she was far too distracted by the hoard of thirteen year old kids in her care to show it.
“It was a beautiful day to be a part of,” replied the photographer. She wasn’t lying. It was a highly emotional day that marked the beginning of a shift in the parent/child relationship.
Julianna beamed a wide smile. “I’ll give you a call in a couple of days. I’ll bring some prints by and you can choose the ones you like best.”
“Yes, yes,” said Mrs Adams.
Adrien waved to Julianna from amongst a collection of his friends before the door was closed on the photographer and the party could continue on with invited guests only.
A small, one bed apartment in Queen’s close to where her last job had been was where Julianna called home. She decided to walk that day. The weather was mild and she felt she needed the exercise. She had been stuck indoors a lot lately. Work was her excuse. The truth was she met new people so often she never made a real connection any more.
She pushed open the door, dropped her bag and habit drew her finger over to press the button on the answering machine.
‘No Messages’ said the emotionless voice.
The house was eerily quiet. Even the upstairs neighbours weren’t making any noise. Normally they were in the midst of a drunken brawl by three, breaking up by five, packed up by six and back together by eight. It was a pattern they had gotten themselves into that showed no signs of changing.
Although Julianna told herself she was fine with the solitude she most definitely didn’t like the silence. She switched on the television to create the illusion of having someone else in the house.
A muscular man and woman danced onto the screen. He wore a t-shirt so tight it could have fit a child. She wore pink Lycra. Her shiny, golden hair was tied in a ponytail that danced around her shoulders. They enthusiastically invited those at home to join them at a local gym chain.
Julianna caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror that hung above her fireplace. She looked so dull and pale. Not like the warm, healthy glow of the gym girl.
“We interrupt this commercial for an important news broadcast from Torrance Global.”
Julianna’s attention was seized by a news reporter wearing a black mourning tie.
“This morning, Prince Mohammar Ahmbad of Saudi Arabia was found dead in his home in Abu Dahbi. Although there has been no official statement from the palace it is assumed that this is the latest in the chaos killings. Authorities are warning to be vigilant. If you see anything suspicious, report it immediately.”
Julianna sighed. An image of the Saudi prince was shown. He was hanging by his feet. His head had been removed. Attendants were throwing themselves in front of the decapitated remains to prevent the press photographers for catching them.
Julianna worried that it was far too early to be showing such gore. Little children who couldn’t understand what was happening would be frightened. Adrien and his friends could be watching.
It hit her hard that such brutality could happen to Prince Mohammar. She had watched broadcasts of him speaking out for women’s rights. When the chaos killings began he worked tirelessly, urging those of every nation to come together in solidarity when it would be easy to run in fear.
For months now the ‘Chaos Killer’ had been targeting world leaders across the globe, killing indiscriminately. Wherever he lurked, chaos followed, giving him his apt media tag.
Even with the combined might of the world’s security agencies they were no closer to finding the culprit, establishing opportunity or even motive. Prince Mohammar would not be the last.
The horrific pictures of the prince were replaced by those of Belgian Minister, Jacques Marlode. The screen was filled with the Minister with his two daughters. Holding his two young daughters, he was grinning wide with genuine pride that suited him better than his usual political astuteness. He had been the first victim of the ‘Chaos Killer’. His decapitated remains were found in a bathroom of the Hague.
A bleep sounded from Julianna’s phone. Feeling morose at the state of global affairs she drew herself away.
HOPE YOU’RE HAVING A GR8 DAY
Julianna smiled. She had been having an online relationship with Todd for months. Although they hadn’t met in person he had become a large part of her life. Not a night had went by since their first chat when they didn’t swap messages. She knew what he looked like from the photos of his skiing trip he had sent her. He was handsome, coal haired and had an endearing smile.
She hoped to meet him in person. Perhaps someday soon. It was all she could think of to distract her from the dismal state of the world.
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Part 2 GETTING TO KNOW HIM will be available exclusively on vivikawidow.com 6pm (UK time) 15th April 2017.